Our Appendicular Skeleton (first the Girdles)

As a practitioner of yoga for close to five years, my arms and legs, hands and feet do the bulk of movement that is sandwiched between the opening minutes of quiet meditation and the closing minutes of savasana (relaxation) and meditation. Put another way, it is my appendicular skeleton that moves me through my yoga practice. “Appendicular” refers to our appendages:

• upper extremities and pectoral girdle (clavicle and scapula)
• lower extremities and pelvic girdle (ilium, ischium and pubic bone)


The girdles are what attach the appendicular skeleton to our axial skeleton. Superior (above) is our pectoral girdle consisting of the clavicle, which you might know as the collar bone (front view: bone running horizontal in the first picture), and the scapula
(right side/rear view: triangular bone in the second picture), which you might know as the shoulder blade. It is at the sternal clavicular joint that our arms (the humerus bones) are connected to our axial skeleton.

I am too familiar with the bone that hangs from the pecs, the humerous, as my 80 year old mom has broken her right one and left one, each within a year of the other! Both arms broke in the area near the shoulder and the treatment was to wear her arm in a sling for close to six weeks, followed by physical therapy.

Inferior (below), extending from the pelvic girdle are three bones consisting of the ilium, ischium and pubic. I love the way “ilium” and “ischium” seem to roll off my tongue, and that the spellchecker knows those words in the first place! Knowing that pelvus means “basin”, perhaps you can begin to see how it supports our leg bones. The size of the pubic bone differs among the sexes, being larger in females, and narrower, deeper and heavier in males.

Of the three bones, it is the ischium that I get a kick out of, both for the sound of its name and because these are our “sits” bones – the two sharp bones upon which we sit and on which all of my yoga teachers remind us to “move the fleshy part of your bottom aside to sit on your sits bones”.

Try it – sit down, then reach your hands under your buttocks and feel the two sharp bones – welcome to your ischium! All three of the pelvic bones come together in the acitabulum (which means vinegar cup, and even Professor Diamond thought that was a curious name), and is where the head of the femur meets the pelvic girdle. This area is what we commonly call our hips.

The longest and heaviest bone in our bodies is the femur, which is the thigh. While my mom has broken each of her arms, I hope she never breaks her femur, especially the top portion. A broken hip often lands elderly folks in the hospital.

@brainbits: Appendicular Skeleton=upper extrimities, pectoral girdle, lower extremities & pelvic girdle. Axial skeleton=head, ribs & vertebral column.

@brainbits: “You’ve got to learn all about your body to be able to keep it healthy so it doesn’t degenerate.” Marian Diamond in Human Anatomy lecture 5

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